The decision to end your marriage was one of the most pivotal decisions of your life. How you decide to go about the process is the next most important decision you need to make. Many divorcing couples across the United States are opting for divorce mediation instead of litigation. The process provides several significant benefits that no one should overlook, especially if you have strong concerns about your post-divorce financial stability.
It is important to understand what divorce mediation is, how the process works, and the potential benefits and drawbacks of divorce mediation. While the process may prove challenging in some cases, mediation is typically the more advantageous route for just about anyone.
How Does Divorce Mediation Work?
Divorce litigation occurs in civil court. The divorcing spouses will each retain attorneys, appear in court, present evidence, and undergo an extensive litigation process. Litigation can easily last for months or even years. Each of the spouses will need to pay legal fees during this time, resulting in significant expenses for both parties. Divorce litigation can also be a stressful experience, and the final decisions in the divorce case rest in the hands of the judge overseeing the matter.
Divorce mediation, on the other hand, proceeds privately, usually in a mediator’s office. The mediator is usually an experienced divorce attorney with a solid record practicing family law and cannot hold any conflicts of interest with either spouse. The mediator’s job is to facilitate a productive negotiation between the divorcing spouses. Mediation allows a divorcing couple to comfortably negotiate property division, alimony, and other aspects of their divorce under the guidance of an experienced professional.
During each mediation session, the divorcing couple will discuss their needs and expectations for the divorce with the ultimate goal of drafting a mutually agreeable divorce settlement. The mediation process only requires as much time as the divorcing couple needs to negotiate every aspect of the divorce. The attorneys and the mediator can answer any questions and help guide them to the best possible divorce agreement.
Benefits of Divorce Mediation
The primary benefits of exploring mediation are the savings of both time and money for the divorcing couple. The mediation process is straightforward and almost always more affordable than litigation. The divorcing spouses may only require a few mediation sessions to successfully negotiate their divorce. Compared to the cost of litigation, mediation is typically a fraction of the average cost of divorce in the Midwest.
Privacy is another major benefit to exploring divorce mediation. Some divorcing couples would rather keep their divorce proceedings private, but this is not possible with litigation as everything said during divorce litigation becomes public record. With litigation, while the final divorce decree will become public record, all the mediation sessions that led to the creation of the decree remain confidential.
Control is another important advantage of divorce mediation. When you litigate a divorce case, no matter how sure you might be of your position, the judge has the final say. Divorce mediation allows a divorcing couple to maintain a greater degree of control over the outcome of their divorce case and achieve a more personalized, logical agreement.
Aside from the practical benefits of divorce mediation, the process can lend itself to generating a more amicable relationship between the divorcing spouses. The mediation process can allow them to have an open and honest dialogue in a relaxed atmosphere. The environment typically encourages them to put personal issues aside and alleviates the emotional stress of the divorce process, fostering a mutually beneficial relationship in the future.
Potential Disadvantages of Divorce Mediation
While mediation is often preferable to litigation in several ways, there are a few things everyone should understand about the process and the potential drawbacks of divorce mediation:
- A divorce mediator does not give legal advice. If you do not have your own divorce attorney, you cannot expect the mediator to look out for your best interests.
- Mediation only works when both divorcing spouses are willing to sit down at the negotiation table. If there is a great deal of animosity between the spouses, litigation could be the only solution.
- Some issues, such as a spouse hiding assets, cannot be resolved through divorce mediation. Similarly, mediation may not be an option in divorce cases involving domestic abuse. In complex cases like these, litigation may be the only way to ensure a fully transparent and legal divorce process.
- It is not possible to reach any firm decisions on child custody or child support through divorce mediation. While divorcing parents can negotiate their preferred parenting plan stipulations, family law requires a judge to review and approve the proposal.
These potential drawbacks could pose problems for some divorcing couples wanting to pursue mediation. However, most divorce cases can proceed through mediation expeditiously if both spouses are willing to negotiate.
What to Expect in Divorce Mediation
While divorce mediation takes place in a more relaxed atmosphere than a courtroom, it is still vital to protect your interests by hiring an experienced Midwest family law attorney to represent you. Although you can continue to lead negotiations and work towards a solution with your spouse, your attorney will be available to answer any specific questions you might have about the process and your legal options.
You and your spouse will arrange meeting times that work for both of you prior to each of your mediation sessions. It is possible to arrange meetings with just the two of you and your mediator, as well as sessions with your respective attorneys. The entire process will only take as long as you need to draft a divorce agreement. Once the mediation process concludes, your mediator will help you file your proposed divorce agreement to the family court for final approval.
Consult With a Midwest Family Law Attorney
Remember, divorce mediation is not the “easy” way through divorce. Still, it is typically much easier than litigation if both you and your spouse are willing to approach the process willing to negotiate. A Midwest family law attorney at Stange Law Firm in Oklahoma is an ideal resource if you need specific legal advice about your divorce case and what to expect from the process.